'Shall we begin with that rather acceptable looking head of yours? The face, in particular.'
'What about it?'
'It's not the one you were born with.'
'What do you mean?'
'Under a thick glass, surgery always leaves its mark. You've been altered, old man.'
'You have a pronounced chin; I daresay there was a cleft in it. It's been removed. Your upper left cheekbone - your cheekbones are also pronounced, conceivably Slavic generations ago - has minute traces of a surgical scar. I would venture to say a mole was eliminated. Your nose is an English nose, at one time slightly more prominent than it is now. It was thinned ever so subtly. Your very sharp features have been softened, the character submerged. Do you understand what I'm saying?'
'You're a reasonably attractive man but your face is more distinguished by the category it falls into than by the face itself.' 'Category?'
'Yes. You are the prototype of the white Anglo-Saxon people see every day on the better cricket fields, or the tennis court. Or the bar at Mirabel's. Those faces become almost indistinguishable from one another, don't they? The features properly in place, the teeth straight, the ears flat against the head - nothing out of balance, everything in position and just a little bit soft.' 'Soft?'
'Well, "spoiled" is perhaps a better word. Definitely self-assured, even arrogant, used to having your own way.' 'I'm still not sure what you're trying to say.' 'Try this then. Change the colour of your hair, you change the face. Yes, there are traces of discoloration, brittleness, dye. Wear glasses and a moustache, you're a different man. I'd guess you were in your middle to late thirties, but you could be ten years older, or five younger.' Washburn paused, watching the man's reactions as if wondering whether or not to proceed. 'And speaking of glasses, do you remember those exercises, the tests we did a week ago?' 'Of course.'
'Your eyesight's perfectly normal; you have no need of glasses."
'I didn't think I did.'
Then why is there evidence of prolonged use of contact lenses about your retinas and lids?' 'I don't know. It doesn't make sense.' 'May I suggest a possible explanation?' Td like to hear it'
'You may not.' The doctor returned to the window and peered absently outside. 'Certain types of contact lenses are designed to change the colour of the eyes. And certain types of eyes lend themselves more readily than others to the device. Usually those that have a grey or bluish hue; yours are a cross. Hazel-grey in one light, blue in another. Nature favoured you in this; often no alteration was required.' 'Required for what?'
'For changing your appearance. Very professionally, I'd say. Visas, passports, driver's licences - switched at will. Hair: brown, blond, auburn. Eyes - can't tamper with the eyes green, grey, blue? The possibilities are far-ranging, wouldn't you say? All within that recognizable category in which the faces are blurred by repetition.'
The man got out of the chair with difficulty, pushing himself up with his arms, holding his breath as he rose. 'It's also possible that you're reaching. You could be way out of line.' The traces are there, the markings. That's evidence.' 'Interpreted by you, with a heavy dose of cynicism thrown in. Suppose I had an accident and was patched up? That would explain the surgery.'
'Not the kind you had. Dyed hair and the removal of clefts and moles aren't part of a restoration process.'
'You don't know that)' said the unknown man angrily. 'There are different kinds of accidents, different procedures. You weren't there; you can't be certain.'
'Good! Get furious with me. You don't do it half often enough. And while you're mad, think. What were you? What are you?'
'A salesman ... an executive with an international company, specializing in the Far East. That could be it. Or a teacher ... of languages. In a university somewhere. That's possible, too.' 'Fine. Choose one. Now!'
'I... I can't.' The man's eyes were on the edge of helplessness. 'Because you don't believe either one.' The man shook his head. 'No. Do you?' 'No,' said Washbura. 'For a specific reason. Those occupations are relatively sedentary and you have the body of a man who's been subjected to physical stress. Oh, I don't mean a trained athlete or anything like that; you're no jock, as they say. But your muscle tone's firm, your arms and hands used to strain and quite strong. Under other circumstances, I might judge you to be a labourer, accustomed to carrying heavy objects, or a fisherman, conditioned by hauling in nets all day long. But your range of knowledge, I daresay your intellect, rules out such things.'
'Why do I get the idea that you're leading up to something? Something else.'
'Because we've worked together, closely and under pressure, for several weeks now. You spot a pattern.' 'I'm right then?' 'Yes. I had to see how you'd accept what I've just told you. The previous surgery, the hair, the contact lenses.'
'Did I pass?'
'With infuriating equilibrium. It's time now; there's no point in putting it off any longer. Frankly, I haven't the patience. Come with me.' Washburn preceded the man through the living-room to the door in the rear wall that led to the dispensary. Inside, he went to the comer and picked up an antiquated projector, the shell of its thick round lens rusted and cracked. 'I had this brought in with the supplies from Marseilles,' he said, placing it on the small desk and inserting the plug into the wall socket 'It's hardly the best equipment, but it serves the purpose. Pull the blinds, will you?'
The man with no name or memory went to the window and lowered the blind; the room was dark. Washburn snapped on the projector's light; a bright square appeared on the white wall. He then inserted a small piece of celluloid behind the lens.
The square was abruptly filled with magnified letters.
Die Bank Gemeinschaft
11 Bahnhofstrasse. Zurich.
'What is it?' asked the nameless man.
'Look at it. Study it. Think.'
'It's a bank account of some kind.'
'Exactly. The printed letterhead and address is the bank; the handwritten numbers take the place of a name, but insofar as they are written out, they constitute the signature of the account holder. Standard procedure.'
'Where did you get it?'
'From you. This is a very small negative, my guess would be half the size of a thirty-five millimetre film. It was implanted -surgically implanted - beneath the skin above your right hip. The numbers are in your handwriting; it's your signature. With it you can open a vault in Zurich.'
They chose the name Jeao-Pierre. It neither startled nor offended anyone, a name as common to Port Noir as any other.
And books came from Marseilles, six of them in varying sizes and thicknesses, four in English, two in French. They were medical texts, volumes that dealt with the injuries to the head and mind. There were cross-sections of the brain, hundreds of unfamiliar words to absorb and try to understand. Lobes occipital and temporal, the cortex and the connecting fibres of the corpus callosum; the limbic system - specifically the hippocampus and mamillary bodies that together with thefornix were indispensable to memory and recall. Damaged, there was amnesia.